Mosaic’s Canvas Slicer
A quick diversion first. I have been trying out Mosaic’s online Canvas slicer specifically designed to work with the Palette series hardware. They just released an update that allows directly painting models which means you can take single material objects and add color to them. Below you will see what can be achieved with this new feature. It is a Flexi Rex single color that I added multicolor to not only the links but the individual spikes on the Rex’s back in addition to the insides of his eyes, eyebrows, and mouth.
The Canvas slicer still has a ways to go in my opinion. With a little manipulation you can quickly get yourself into a situation where the slicing results in errors when it comes to finally printing.
Hardware and experience
Back to the Palette 2 (not pro) hardware. The Palette 2 is an amazing piece of engineering. Clearly a lot of time went into perfecting the mechanical functionality. When it is working well it is quite an interesting thing to watch considering they put the mechanical workings under a clear cover (I really appreciate this). Once you understand how it functions it is fairly easy to spot problems early which helps with troubleshooting.
So how is it working? For multicolor prints it works decently well. That said, even after a large number of prints I still occasionally see issues where color change is missed for a few layers as seen below. I’ve found more success using an external slicer, but this adds quite a few steps to the process.
When the Palette 2 is working well, however, you get some great prints like the sheep below (note the black and white color changes resulted in some slightly off white where the head of the sheep started. To fix this you probably would need to lengthen the transition amount between colors – I chalk this up to the huge contrast different between white and black filaments).
Other modes like gradient and random work as expected. I do not find the graphical interface very intuitive for setting these up, but it does work. Some guess work goes into figuring out when to make changes from one color to the next with these modes. I have not tried using the continuous spool mode where it will switch inputs when one input runs out of filament, but I’ve read it does work once setup correctly. This mode could prove useful for advanced and pro printers who go through a lot of filament and don’t or can’t monitor the filament left on large prints.
Palette 2’s Flaws
First, and most importantly, the Palette 2 cannot make multi-material prints. I am talking about something like PLA mixed with TPU. The Palette 2 is simply not designed to properly handle two different materials that differ drastically in physical properties. This is disappointing because some of the early promotional materials show TPU mixed with PLA or PET. Maybe a team of engineers can get this working, but even advanced hobbyists are not going to have success.
What that means is the Palette 2 is really a single material multicolor machine except for maybe the most expert persons.
Like the Prusa Multi-Material add-on, the Palette 2 also wastes a huge amount of filament. The transitions between one color and the next require a purge block of plastic that is nearly the same size and weight of your original model. You can see with the sheep above that even the standard purge block may not be enough in some cases to clear the color. The only good news here is whether I print 1 sheep or 7 only one purge block is needed. It is possible in the future slicers will be able to purge as infill, but I think this is a ways off.
The third biggest issue I have with the Palette 2 is how sensitive it is to filament. If you have brittle filament or filament that is too soft it will snap or clog and your entire print must be canceled. I found transparent PLA can be quite brittle for the angles that the Palette 2 demands as it pushes filament through. I have had to disassemble a number of parts to get the shattered PLA bits out before it would work again. The good news here is PET bends much easier and is known for coming in transparent colors so this is a good option if the PLA you are using breaks too easily.
Finally the Palette 2 has many ways to fail due to its complexity. If a motor or sensor is slightly off, or the cutting wheel dulls, or the splicer core fails it will not be an easy or cheap fix. Luckily Mosaic sells all the parts you need to get your Palette 2 working again, but with the engineering feat they’ve performed with this device, they have also introduced a lot of complexity to an already complex overall 3D printing experience.
A number of firmware and software updates have eliminated launch glitches. This includes the Octopi plugins which work much better than the first version that shipped. The Canvas3D.io Slicer has also been improved. As I mentioned above you can now paint single-color models, but also the interface has improved. Some firmware changes to the Palette 2 itself allow for better filament movement detection. I’ve also seen improvements in the communication to the enduser in terms of sync between the Palette and your printer, notification messages, and connectivity. These are all great steps towards improving the product for non-expert users.
The Palette 2 is a really interesting device that costs as much as lower tier decent printers. If you want multi-material this is simply not the device for you. If you must have multicolor prints and you don’t own a Prusa MK2.5 or MK3 this is your only option short of buying a multi-head printer.
I think the Palette 2 is a clever device that comes up a bit short as a valuable add-on for your 3D printer. It is a fun device that niche 3D printing hobbyists will find value in. Everyone else should stick to their single color/material printers because there is a lot of fun and creativity to be had without an expensive add-on like the Palette 2.
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